19 February 2021
Story by Randy Porter
LINCOLN (SNR) – The reassuring image on the Shroud of Turin graces a billboard in Lincoln through The Holy Face Project.
Plans call for five more billboards in Lincoln, all featuring what is believed by many to be the face of Jesus Christ. The billboard at Old Cheney Road at 51st Street went up Monday, Feb. 15 and will remain until April 11.
The Holy Face Project silently and powerfully increases awareness of Jesus’ presence in the world by establishing roadside billboards of The Holy Face of Our Lord from the Shroud of Turin, according to the project’s mission statement.
Val Kelly of Hilton Head, S.C., saw billboards of the Shroud face in Ireland. Kelly wanted to duplicate the idea near her home and founded the project with help from her prayer group.
Other billboards will be up March 1 along Nebraska Highway 2 at Calvert Street; Highway 2 at 49th Street; South Street at 39th Street, O Street at 3rd; and Cornhusker Highway at 18th Street. The signs will be displayed through March 28, or longer, depending on continuing funding through The Holy Face Project.
The four locations have a combined viewership of more than 560,000 views per week, according to the billboard advertising agency… times four or more weeks they may be displayed. The images will be seen not only by Lincoln residents, but also by other Nebraskans and out-of-state travelers passing by those locations.
“I stepped out of my comfort zone to initiate this project in Lincoln and did everything I could on my part knowing that God would do the rest,” said Jim Bertrand, a member of St. Peter Parish in Lincoln. “Knowing what I do about the Shroud, The Holy Face Project seemed an opportunity to share the message of the Shroud with even more people.”
In the past six years, Bertrand has made Shroud of Turin presentations in 12 states, 18 dioceses and even in New Zealand. He taught high school science classes for 39 years before he retired in May from Pius X High School in Lincoln. He worked eight years at Crete Junior/Senior High School, 24 years at Lincoln Southeast High School and seven years at Pius. With retirement, he devotes more of his time to giving Shroud presentations.
“I got together with a wise and trusted friend who shared some names of his friends with me,” he said of the Holy Face project.
“I combined those names with people I know,” Bertrand said. “Nearly 150 people were contacted through letters, emails and other ways.”
Of those, nearly 50 contributed, he said. The Knights of Columbus, St. Peter Council No. 10510 made the largest contribution. The combined donations total nearly $7,000, but Bertrand said donations continue to come in. The billboard rates vary from $350 to $1,500 per week.
“The most significant takeaway from this experience has been a greater trust in Divine Providence,” Bertrand said. “I know little about fundraising. I learned that putting everything in God’s hands leaves one at peace, knowing that He’s the one who ultimately moves hearts.”
Lent and the Easter season just seemed like ideal times to move forward with the project, he said.
If we can put the face of Jesus in front of many thousands of people every day, Bertrand said, then the Holy Spirit can touch hearts in His own way. Even if it’s just a few seconds on a billboard, it can be an encounter with Jesus.
The photographic negative of the Shroud face shows a clarity and majesty not visible on the cloth image, according to Bertrand. He believes the Holy Spirit inspires different perspectives for different people. For some, the wounds of the Passion call to mind the suffering Jesus endured for us, and hence, His infinite love for us.
For others, he continued, it brings to mind the Resurrection. This is a great sign of hope: while we may experience our ‘Good Fridays’ at the present time, we know for certain that our ‘Easter Sunday’ is on the horizon when we step into eternity.
“I witnessed this hope dimension firsthand when I gave a Shroud presentation to women inmates at the Nebraska Correctional Facility in York,” Bertrand said. “They were so filled with hope they were beaming by the end of the talk.”
He also has heard people have returned to Church because the Holy Face beckoned them, the retired teacher said. There are as many reactions to the Holy Face as there are people. It’s a personal reaction, which he thinks is a gift, a grace from God.
“The Shroud is for everyone because the Resurrection is for everyone,” he said. “It’s not just a Catholic thing.”
Is the Shroud authentic? Bertrand said he believes it can be stated with certainty that the image is not a natural process and is not the work of an artist. Those hypotheses have been vigorously tested.
People can evaluate the objective data on the Shroud and come to their own conclusion about the question of authenticity, he said.
“The Shroud and even these billboards with the Holy Face can serve as a type of ‘sacramental,’” Bertrand said. “God can use these as conduits of grace.”
Although the billboards are not blessed, God is not limited to indoor sacramentals, he said.
Bertrand will give the Shroud presentation Thursday, Feb. 25 to students at Pius X High School. He will present to half the student body at a time in the gymnasium—to allow for social distancing. He will bring his life-size replica of the Shroud of Turin, and will spend the afternoon in theology classes, where the students can ask questions about the Shroud in a smaller, more informal setting.
For more information about seeing a Shroud presentation contact Bertrand at 402-421-7656 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Thanks to Joe Marino for the link)